Back in mid-May, Tyler Rios learned his Estancia High baseball team's fate depended on his right arm. This was a week before he even knew whom he was going to pitch against in the wild-card round of the CIF Southern Section Division 4 playoffs.
Estancia relied on that same arm of Rios' before in a must-win situation. To keep their hopes of finishing second in the Orange Coast League alive, the Eagles needed to beat the same team twice in as many days.
Rios got the first chance on the mound in the final week of the regular season. He didn't really falter, as he threw a complete game, allowing only three runs. His team just failed to provide any run support against Calvary Chapel and the Eagles lost, 3-0, and their shot at second place.
Soon after, Coach Nate Goellrich gave Rios a heads up on what to expect next. Goellrich knew the third-place finish in league would put Estancia in a wild-card game on the road for the second time in three years.
"We're going to go with you," Rios said Goellrich told him before saying, "just get us to the next round, get us past the wild-card round."
Rios took the ball and never gave it back to Goellrich. The senior started the playoff opener and finished it.
The one player who Goellrich trusted to come through in a big spot delivered. Rios went the distance, helping the Eagles beat Montebello, 7-1, and register their second wild-card victory in three years.
Rios played a key role in both wild-card triumphs. The playoff wins are Estancia's only two in the past 21 seasons.
Rios helped change the culture at Estancia during his four years as a starter on varsity. He turned a losing program into a playoff one right away.
Rios' standout final season and his impact on Estancia are why he is the Daily Pilot Newport-Mesa Dream Team Player of the Year in baseball. Whether he was at shortstop, on the mound, in the batter's box, in the dugout, or shagging balls in the outfield, Rios led the Eagles with grace and class.
"He was a coach on the field for us with his senior leadership and knowledge of the game," Goellrich said. "He was a great teammate and also did a great job mentoring our younger players in the program. It was a privilege coaching him the past two years, as opposed to coaching against him the first two years while [I was an assistant coach] at Costa Mesa.
"His work ethic and dedication to the game was excellent and he helped make the other players around him better."
Getting better is what Rios strove for each time he took the field for the Eagles. Each time, he improved and his final high school season turned out to be his finest.
He stood out yet again as a shortstop and hitter, and for the first time as a pitcher. Rios earned Dream Team honors for the third straight year and first-team All-Orange Coast League honors for the second straight year.
Rios hit .402 with 17 runs batted in and seven doubles. He scored 21 runs and stole five bases.
As a pitcher, Rios went 4-3 with a 1.81 earned-run average. He struck out 37 in 50 innings and recorded a save.
The Eagles (17-10, 9-6 in league) always knew Rios could pitch, but he said elbow and shoulder problems stopped him from throwing much his sophomore and junior years.
Going into his senior year, Rios said his arm felt healthy. Goellrich gave him his first start at the end of March. Rios opened the Beach Pit Classic tournament by tossing a complete game against Sun Valley Village Christian. He got the win against a team that went on to reach the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 5 playoffs.
Rios' first and last starts on the hill for Estancia produced similar results. The reasons for his success were due to him hitting his spots and allowing his defense to take care of the rest.
After that last start in which he allowed six hits and struck out two against Montebello, Rios returned to shortstop in the first-round playoff game at South Torrance. One hit is all the Eagles produced in a 7-2 loss.
While Rios' final season ended in the first round for the fourth straight year, his playing days aren't over. He plans to walk on at UC Riverside.
"I'm going to miss my teammates and coaches," said Rios, adding that contributing as a freshman to the Eagles' first league title since 1991 ranks up there with the individual accolades. "We came together as a team and got through some adversity when a senior starter quit during this past season. We made the playoffs and won a playoff game without him.
"I talked to him, telling him that we needed him. But he said he didn't want to [play baseball] anymore. He said he was burned out."
Rios found it hard to relate. Baseball has been a big part of his life for 14 years. He said he has two men to thank, his father, Francisco Rios, who coached him as a kid, and his grandfather, Frank Rios, who played in the minor leagues and shared stories with him as a kid.
The following are the rest of the players on this year's Dream Team:
Junior pitcher returned as the Sailors' ace and topped his stellar sophomore season. Vetrovec went 5-4 with a 2.20 earned-run average and struck out 38 in 47 2/3 innings. He picked up each of Newport Harbor's three Sunset League victories. Vetrovec, a first-team All-Sunset League member, hit .317 with two home runs, 18 runs batted in and seven doubles. Vetrovec is a two-time Dream Team selection.
Senior pitcher stood out on the Eagles' talented staff. Beck tossed a no-hitter against Saddleback and finished 7-3 with a 1.19 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 52 innings, earning him first-team All-Orange Coast League honors. He hit .360 with 12 RBIs, four triples, two doubles, 25 stolen bases and 23 runs. Beck, who is bound for Lewis & Clark College, is a two-time Dream Team selection.
Junior pitcher turned into a reliable workhorse for the Sailors. Seabold garnered second-team All-Sunset League accolades after he went 2-6 with a save and a 1.97 ERA. He struck out 65 in 60 1/3 innings, while only walking 11. Next year, Seabold and Vetrovec should bolster Newport Harbor's chances of returning to the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs for the first time in four years.
Senior center fielder provided the Sailors with a strong bat and arm. Andary, a first-team All-Sunset League performer, batted .312 with one home run, 12 RBIs, seven doubles and one triple. He finished with a .404 on-base percentage, scored 16 runs and walked 11 times. Andary started in right field in the Ryan Lemmon Showcase, a senior all-star game between the Sunset League and Century League.
Freshman is the designated hitter because he was a hitting machine for the Lightning. Bock led the area in batting average (.438), RBIs (27) and triples (seven). He earned first-team All-Academy League laurels with his offense, which included a .719 slugging percentage, a .520 on-base percentage, 19 runs and four doubles. Bock led Sage Hill to the wild-card round of the CIF Southern Section Division 6 playoffs.
Corona del Mar
Junior is the utility player after he produced for the Sea Kings on the mound, in the batter's box and at first base. Olson made the All-Pacific Coast League first team. As a pitcher, he went 3-2 with a 1.66 ERA, struck out 24 in 33 2/3 innings, and tossed one complete game. Olson batted .329 with 13 RBIs, eight doubles, one triple, 17 walks and 14 runs.
Corona del Mar
Senior second baseman played at a high level for the Sea Kings, right after he led the school's ice hockey club team to the Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League Varsity 2A Division title. Maloney, a second-team All-Pacific Coast League pick, hit .352 with five RBIs and one double. He played in the Ryan Lemmon All-Star Showcase Game between the Pacific Coast League and Sea View League.
Junior first baseman led the Sailors with a .365 batting average, an impressive feat considering he faced tough pitching in the Sunset League. Norton received second-team All-Sunset League recognition. He finished with eight RBIs, one home run, six doubles, one triple and 11 runs. He drove in a run in the Sailors' first win at Edison in Coach Patrick Murphy's four seasons with Newport Harbor.
Senior third baseman helped the Eagles to a 7-1 win at Montebello in the wild-card round of the CIF Southern Section Division 4 playoffs, their second playoff victory in four seasons. Macias, a first-team All-Orange Coast League pick, hit .389 with 17 RBIs, eight doubles, one triple and 17 runs. As a pitcher, he went 5-3 with a 2.19 ERA. Macias is a two-time Dream Team selection.
Junior catcher became the best defensive catcher in the area and in the Sunset League. Newport Harbor Coach Patrick Murphy said NCAA Division I programs are recruiting McWhertor because of his defensive skills. McWhertor made the second-team All-Sunset League. He hit .231 with eight RBIs and one double. McWhertor also caught Shaun Vetrovec's impressive 22-inning streak in which the right-hander didn't allow an earned run.
Senior outfielder set the table for the Lightning, always finding himself on base. Fishel hit .400 and finished with a .556 on-base percentage. He drove in 13 runs, tripled once, doubled once, walked 18 times, swiped 11 of 12 bases and scored 24 runs. Fishel, a first-team All-Academy League member, helped Sage Hill reach the CIF Southern Section Division 6 playoffs for the second straight year.